If you need proof of how fickle and unpredictable baseball can be, all you have to do is look at what happened on Friday with Clayton Kershaw getting lit up, Kansas City getting an extra-inning homer for the second-straight day and Delmon Young getting another big postseason hit. 

The good news for fans who like to breathe is that Saturday and Sunday’s slate features two games each, so you can marinate over one game for a little bit before being thrust into the madness all over again. Those of us who found 13 straight hours of baseball exhilarating will have to make due with half that. 

However we consume the games this weekend, there is no shortage of things to talk about coming out of what we saw on Thursday and Friday. We’ve got predictions for what to expect this weekend as soon as we show you when and where to find the games. 



San Francisco at Washington

We should’ve seen this coming with the San Francisco Giants. They only make the playoffs every other year, and when they do it’s resulted in World Series titles in 2010 and 2012. However, let’s pump the brakes on crowning them right now.

Jake Peavy did a fantastic job shutting down Washington’s lineup in Game 1, but that wasn’t completely unexpected. After all, the right-hander was masterful after being acquired from Boston with a 2.17 ERA in 78.2 innings that included a 1.44 mark in September. 

Game 2, however, is a huge advantage for Washington on the mound. Jordan Zimmermann has the glimmer of that season-ending no-hitter, but he was also one of the best pitchers in the National League not named Clayton Kershaw. 

In fact, if you go by FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Zimmerman’s 5.2 mark was the second-best among NL starters. Richard Justice of MLB.com also tweeted out how much the Washington Nationals love playing with their right-handed stud on the mound:

When you combine Zimmermann’s success with his Game 2 opponent, Tim Hudson, this really comes out as a no-contest. Hudson started out looking great for the Giants this season, but at 39 years old all those innings take a toll. 

The groundball specialist was a disaster in September with an 8.72 ERA and 35 hits allowed in 21.2 innings. Opponents had an OPS of .931 against him for the month. Even in a small sample size, it’s hard to defend how Hudson ended the season. 

Washington’s got a lot of hitters who strike out, which was their undoing in Game 1, but Hudson isn’t a pitcher who misses bats. All that contact will eventually turn into good things for a potent Nationals lineup that was ready to break out in the later innings on Friday. Expect this series to go back to San Francisco evened up. 


St. Louis at Los Angeles

I’m sure we all expected a game with Adam Wainwright and Kershaw on the mound to end with 19 runs and 26 hits between the two teams. Of course, this being baseball, no one will be shocked to see Lance Lynn and Zack Greinke throw up zeroes through seven innings. 

Lynn is one of those pitchers who flirts with disaster because his command is so erratic. The big right-hander walked 72 in 203.2 innings this season, yet he had a career-low 2.74 ERA, thanks to the best hit rate (8.2 per nine innings) and home run-to-fly ball ratio (6.1 percent) of his career. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a much better offense this year than they did in 2013, thanks to a healthy Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, as well as the improved Dee Gordon at the top of the lineup. They led the league in team on-base percentage (.333) and finished sixth in walks (519), which plays into Lynn’s weakness. 

Greinke has been a machine at home this season, recording 111 strikeouts in 98.2 innings. The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t hit well with runners in scoring position during the regular season (.254/.336/.365), but they were able to figure out Kershaw in the seventh inning with four singles before a bases-loaded double from Matt Carpenter. 

Given the much larger sample we have from the Cardinals in which they struggled in high-leverage scoring situations, the advantage goes to the Dodgers in this game because Greinke is a more stable presence on the mound than Lynn. 


Baltimore at Detroit

In an interesting twist, Buck Showalter changed his starting pitcher for Game 3. Bud Norris will get the nod over Miguel Gonzalez, though Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com noted that neither one has had success against Detroit in his career:

The 29-year-old Norris went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts this season. He is 0-3 with a 6.57 ERA while striking out 24 and walking 16 in four career starts vs. the Tigers.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the Orioles decided to make a change on the eve of Game 3. Gonzalez also has struggled against the Tigers throughout his career, with Detroit’s lineup posting a .328/.380/.672 slash line in 71 plate appearances vs. the third-year starter.

Whatever Showalter’s reasons for swapping pitchers, it’s hard to argue with him, given how well he manages the bullpen and seems to always make the right move in key spots. 

That said, the Detroit Tigers would have a huge advantage on the mound, regardless of who was pitching for Baltimore. David Price was acquired in July to fill the void left by Justin Verlander’s struggles and Anibal Sanchez’s injury this season. He more than held his own with 82 strikeouts and 74 hits allowed in 77.2 innings. 

Price’s precise control will also help the Tigers in this game because Brad Ausmus can’t afford to go back to his bullpen in a big spot again. If this game turns into a battle of relievers, Baltimore has the huge edge. Ausmus’ best/only play is to use Sanchez for multiple innings again like he did in Game 2, because Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria aren’t cutting it. 

The Baltimore Orioles are probably going to win this series, but given how well Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez are hitting, the Tigers should at least get one game before their season ends. 


Los Angeles at Kansas City

If the Royals were a fun story when the playoffs started, they are making everyone believe in their ability to compete for a championship. Their strengths have shone through the first two games with terrific starting pitching from Jason Vargas and Yordano Ventura, nine scoreless innings from the bullpen and timely hitting. 

Even though they hit an MLB-low 95 homers in the regular season, the Royals got two in extra innings from Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. 

The Angels were always a flawed team, despite winning an MLB-high 98 games, though what appeared to be their biggest flaw (starting pitching) has been effective with three runs allowed in 13 innings. Their offense has been a disaster. 

Mike Trout’s first postseason looks like one to forget as he’s 0-for-8 with two walks. Albert Pujols hasn’t been much better at 1-for-8, while Josh Hamilton is a shell of his former self (0-for-9). The blame isn’t just on those three, as the entire lineup is 10-for-65 in two games. 

In a must-win game to keep their season alive, the Angels are going with their worst starting pitcher in C.J. Wilson. He had a 4.51 ERA in the regular season and league-high 85 walks. 

The Royals counter with their best starting pitcher, James Shields, who should be allowed to throw more than 88 pitches in five innings, assuming Ned Yost doesn’t have one of those moments where he wants to make everyone’s head explode. 

Until we see some evidence that the Angels have life, you can’t pick them. It also doesn’t help that they are putting their most important game in the hands of the always volatile Wilson. Believe it or not, the Royals are going to the American League Championship Series. 


Note: Stats via Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs

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